Department of Veterans Affairs wants to raise awareness of a final honor for veterans
ARLINGTON, Va. (CNN NEWSOURCE) — The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to raise awareness about a final honor for the nation’s veterans. They say burial benefits frequently go unused by veterans — and they want those who served and their families to know the extent of their options.
Amid the quiet and the solemnity, Arlington National Cemetery is expanding, adding 70 acres to the south of these hallowed grounds — an estimated 80,000 burial sites by late 2027.
“The current physical expansion that we’re doing right now, was the last available land contiguous in other words, connecting Arlington National Cemetery and even to do that expansion we’ve had to reconstruct existing roads,” said Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.
About 30 miles to the south of Arlington is Quantico National Cemetery.
It’s one of 155 national cemeteries across the nation, maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
The network also includes 121 state-run cemeteries funded by the VA and they say about 94 percent of U.S. veterans have one of these burial sites within 75 miles of home.
Still, utilization of VA burial benefits which include no-cost interment, as well as similar benefits for spouses and dependents, is low compared to other VA benefits like healthcare and education. Last year, just 22 percent.
“That’s the number we want to see increase. We want to make sure veterans know that this is an option across America,” said Memorial Affairs Under Secretary Matthew Quinn.
So they’re working to improve rural access to burial sites.
And in dense, urban areas — build above-ground columbariums with a smaller footprint — like the one at Los Angeles National Cemetery. Another will soon open in Queens, New York.
All of it — a way to say thank you, one final time.
“The way we look at it is this is the nation’s last chance to thank that veteran for their service,” said Quinn.